Regardless of who you are, where you are from, or what you do, something everyone has in common is the fact that our bodies can only handle so much. At some point in time our bodies will reach a limit; things that were once easy and required no thought now cause discomfort, leaving us wondering what we did wrong that lead our bodies to behave in such a way.
Whether brought on by stress, over-exertion, poor posture, or the monotonous movements of our day-to-day lives, these unwanted and unexplainable aches and pains are inevitable.
Fortunately enough, these aches and pains are usually tolerable. We treat them as something we’ve learned to live with and accept them as part of our normal, everyday lives. It’s not ideal, but it’s easy, for the most part.
However, this passive acceptance is not the only option we have.
Most healing techniques used today, especially in western medicine, treat us as if we were all the same. Treatments are often linear and are administered as such. Our bodies, however, are all unique, meaning that these one-size-fits-all type treatments won’t be effective to the same extent from one person to the next.
The ways in which we heal and care for our bodies must be tailored to our own body’s individuality.
That is why we want all of you to know about one of our favourite forms of physical therapy, Aston-Patterning.
What is Aston-Patterning?
Aston-Patterning is an integrated system of movement education, bodywork, ergonomic adjustments, and fitness training that recognizes the relationship between the body and the mind for well-being.
In other words, it is a series of techniques used to help one become more aware of their body’s natural form to help teach them the proper way of moving and using their body in order to relieve common aches and pains and reduce risk of injury.
The Aston-Patterning process was created by Judith Aston in 1977.
After suffering injuries from two separate vehicle accidents in 1968, Judith sought treatment from Dr. Ida Rolf, creator of the Rolfing process. Rolfing is a technique of deep tissue manipulation aimed at the release and realignment of the body, and the reduction of muscular tension.
Post-treatment, Dr. Rolf approached Ms. Aston to aid her in developing a movement education program that would compliment Rolfing process, as Ms. Aston had years of experience working as a movement education program director with dancers and athletes.
After 6 years of working on this program together, Ms. Aston and Dr. Rolf parted ways, as their interests, ideas, and beliefs began to change and diverge. Despite their joint project coming to an end, Ms. Aston chose to continue on with the work they had been focusing on and, instead, created her own personal program using techniques she established and developed.
She called this new movement education program Aston-Patterning.
How It Works
Aston-Patterning sessions are done one-on-one with a certified therapist and can last anywhere from 1-2 hours. Every patient is different, and so it is difficult to predict exactly how many sessions one may need – it will depend on the problem being addressed and the efficiency by which the patient becomes comfortable with the techniques used.
There are 4 core components one should expect when walking into an Aston-Patterning session.
- History Consult – This is where the therapist and patient discuss a personal and medical history of the patient. This is so the therapist can grasp a better understanding the client and their needs.
- Pre-Testing – The therapist will examine the patient doing a variety of movement patterns to determine where there the patients pain may be stemming from and where there is potential for improvement.
- Movement Education and Bodywork – This portion of the sessions is where the techniques chosen will be taught and practiced. The techniques chosen will depend on the history and pre-testing,
- Post-Testing – During post-testing, the movement patterns done during the pre-testing are repeated. This is so the patient can feel the changes that have taken place in their movements since practicing the various bodywork techniques.
These sessions can include a variety of techniques, including: massages for relieving tension; lessons on proper posture and body movements, such as sitting, standing, or walking; and certain strength training exercises.
Aside from physical techniques, the therapist will also take into consideration more personal aspects of the patients life, such as lifestyle, habits, personal beliefs, typical moving patterns, etc.
As you can see, Aston-Patterning is highly focused on the individual and their needs. Every patient is treated in a way that fits their needs, lifestyle, and body. It truly focuses on how each patient has a unique body and works to understand how that individual can learn to use their body is the safest and most effective and efficient way possible.
How Can Aston-Patterning Benefit You?
There are multiple ways in which becoming more in tune with your body and how you move can benefit you, and that is exactly what Aston-Patterning does.
To give you the best idea of what we mean, we’ve outlined the top 5 ways Aston-Patterning can improve your quality of life.
- Minimize Consequences of Repetitive Movements
Repetitive Strain Injury (or RSI for short) is a general term used to describe the pain felt in muscles, nerves, and/or tendons that is caused by repetitive movements, overuse, unnatural or awkward motions, overexertion, incorrect posture, or even muscle fatigue. Not surprisingly, RSI’s are incredibly common.
While this type of injury is quite often seen amongst athletes or those with physically demanding jobs, they can actually affect essentially anyone.
The reason that anyone can suffer from RSI’s is because there are many basic, day-to-day activities that are considered repetitive and can easily be the cause of RSI. Some examples of the types of everyday activities that can put this type of strain on our bodies are: jogging, scrubbing the floor, clapping, throwing a ball, etc.
Aston-Patterning can help reduce your chances of incurring these types of injuries first by helping you better recognize the types of movements that may cause them. If you are able to recognize when you are doing these repetitive movements, you can alter the way in which you are doing them to ensure the least amount of strain on yourself.
- Reduce Negative Aspects of Aging
It’s no big secret that as we age our bodies start to deteriorate a little; our posture becomes worse and worse, leaving us with hunched or rounded backs and shoulders, we lose a lot of the strength in our core and limbs that we once had, and even our bones become more fragile.
Aston-Patterning helps reduce some (not all) of these signs of aging by teaching you to listen to your body, and use it only in ways that optimize its performance. Much of the negative aspects of aging are worsened by the constant strain and stress our bodies go through.
By practicing Aston-Patterning from a young age, you can act proactively and preventatively, rather than trying to reverse effects of aging that are already present.
Not only will you more fit and capable as you age, but you can reduce your chances of falling ill; your stronger muscles will be less likely to incur injuries; you can reduce your chances of needing a walker or cane due to poor posture; and the elimination of bodily stress can even work wonders for the health and appearance of your skin.
- Reduce Risk of Injury
Some of us are just clumsy, and some of us may take part in activities that have the potential of injury. Either way, practicing the Aston-Patterning process can help.
By strengthening the relationship between mind and body, we become more aware of our movements. This awareness can in turn help to improve how we use our bodies: it can improve our balance, agility, and posture, which in turn will ease much of the tension from our muscles.
The more relaxed our muscles are, and the more gracefully we move, the less chance there is of injury. This is because we are more cognizant of how we are using our bodies (which can reduce any accidents or falls we may have), but also because relaxed muscles are less likely to overexert, which is where many injuries result from.
This makes Aston-Patterning especially appealing to athletes and dancers, as muscle injuries are very common within these communities.
- Increase Energy/Stamina
Muscle strain and stress makes our bodies tired. When our muscles are strained they are working overtime, even for simple tasks. This can quickly exhaust our bodies’ energy stores.
The more efficiently we use our bodies, the less stress we are putting our muscles through.
By using your muscles properly, you eliminate the overexertion caused by everyday tasks. If your body does not need to input so much energy for such simple tasks, you will have the energy and stamina for other activities.
You body will feel refreshed and revitalized, instead of tired and overworked.
- Less Prone to Illness
Stress has a lot more implications on the body than we may recognize. Not only does it play a part in the aches and pains we feel, but can also lead to a variety of illnesses.
Illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, depression, gastrointestinal problems, and Alzheimer’s can be caused or made worse by stress.
When we are not using our bodies correctly, the physical stress we feel can translate into our minds as well. If we alleviate the strain on our bodies, we can in turn alleviate the stress in our minds.
This is why one of the main goals of Aston-Patterning is working on the relationship between mind and body. It is apparent that they are interconnected, and Aston-Patterning seeks to teach us how to use that connection to improve both our physical and mental health.
Things To Consider
There are a variety of health concerns that can interfere with or be irritated by Aston-Patterning because of its physically demanding nature.
Health conditions that could make Aston-Patterning dangerous, painful, or uncomfortable include: heart conditions, respiratory problems, diabetes, osteoporosis, carpel tunnel syndrome and bleeding disorders.
If you have any of the aforementioned health issues, or any other physical or mental health concerns, please consult your doctor before taking part in Aston-Patterning, or any physically demanding treatment processes.